By STEVEN VAUGHAN, 750 THE GAME
The clock is ticking for the Trail Blazers.
The NBA Draft is June 22 — and with it comes a pivot point for the franchise.
Will the basketball organization back Damian Lillard and trade the No. 3 pick for an established star to help the team contend in the West? Or will GM Joe Cronin use the third pick on a rising 19-year-old phenom, prioritizing the future?
Lillard, who will turn 33 in July, has been clear with what he wants from the Blazers. Lillard wants to win in Portland and he believes the team has the assets to construct a contending roster this offseason.
Former Blazer, and friend of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, was on ESPN’s First Take and said that the Blazers all-time leading scorer just wants a chance in Portland before he would ever ask out.
“If they’re (Portland) not positioned to have what we consider a title-contending team or a puncher’s chance — he’s a boxer — he just wants a puncher’s chance.”
John Canzano answered McCollum’s stance on 750 The Game, saying the Blazers are still far away from contending.
“They don’t have a puncher’s chance,” Canzano said. “They are sitting on the outside looking in right now.”
Canzano thinks that Lillard is playing this the right way.
“If you’re Damian Lillard, the best case scenario is to get to a destination where you feel like you have that ‘puncher’s chance’ to win. Now, Lillard is saying first and foremost he’d like that to be in Portland, and I think wisely so. He’s made money here, he lives here. I think he would prefer if the Blazers are going to win that he be part of it.
“We have seen players who will scorch Earth to get to where they want to be, and all they’re thinking about is themselves.” Canzano added, “If you’re Damian Lillard I think it behooves you to work with the Blazers. Not go public demanding a trade and diminish your value and make it much easier for Joe Cronin to get a deal done.”
Who is making the calls for the Trail Blazers? Cronin may be the general manager but Canzano questions if he really is the guy calling the shots.
“I would feel a lot better where the Blazers are if we saw ownership and we saw general manager and we saw coach in total alignment down the line,” Canzano said. “Totally aligned. We understand what they’re going to do. We understand their mission. But we don’t really see that with the Blazers right now.
“So I wonder, will Bert Kolde end up making this decision? Are we going to have basically Paul Allen’s college roommate, the Vice Chair of the team, acting as the GM? And Cronin is just executing what Kolde wants him to do?”
Kolde has the power right now to have the last word on the Trail Blazers. Is he going to pull a power move and force Joe Cronin to make a certain move? Or is he going to let Cronin do the job he was hired for?
Listen to the segment at the 15:00 mark on the podcast below. Catch the Bald Faced Truth with John Canzano weekdays 3-6 p.m. in Portland exclusively on 750 The Game.